Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why Residency Requirements Shouldn't Matter

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Why Residency Requirements Shouldn't Matter

Does your address affect your ability to do your job?

That is one of the questions at the heart of the Rahm Emanuel dust-up, when you cut through all the legal mumbo-jumbo. Can Emanuel understand what's going on in the city even though he's been away for two years?

The city's election residency rule was set up so Chicago's mayor would understand intimately the problems in the city. But there's another residency rule that's drawing just as much interest as the Rahmapalooza that's dominating news coverage. As courts debate Emanuel's residency, Gery Chico makes the case that city employees shouldn't be required to live here.

But should city workers be allowed to live in the suburbs? The issues are separate, but they're the same at their core. Does working within the boundaries of the city invite better work?

We would say no.

To be sure, if you're a public servant, it probably helps to live where you work. You're more familiar with the nuances of the place.

But there are many Chicagos, and who's to say which one you live in.

Does a Gold Coast resident know the city better than someone in Englewood? Is someone from Lincoln Park interested in the streets in Chatham? There is no candidate for mayor who will know all the issues of all the neighborhoods, just like there is no worker who knows the city better than someone else. Career politicians live in a different world, and residents live in their neighborhoods.

People running for mayor don't really know what city life is like at all. How many of these people have had their car towed for no good reason only to fight a ticket and lose arbitrarily? How many of these candidates have waited on a desolate "L" platform for half an hour? How many of these candidates have called 911, only to be blown off?

With political clout comes a different set of rules. None of us can pick up the phone to get our street plowed sooner. None of us gets to hire a series of decreasingly qualified relatives and friends to jobs beyond their grasp.

It's like that line in "The Untouchables" - "If you're afraid of getting a rotten apple, don't go to the barrel. Get it off the tree."

The ballot is our barrel. These candidates have been off the tree for a while.

But outsiders can perform just as well as natives.

Seems like anyone can step into the mayor's office and decide which city asset to sell next. Let's just select the smartest candidate, regardless of residency and cross our fingers.

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